John Wyclif (?), Of Weddid Men and Wifis and of Here Children Also
WYCLIF (?), OF WEDDID MEN AND WIFIS AND OF HERE CHILDREN ALSO, FOOTNOTES
Title: Here, Their.
2 gostly, spiritual.
7 dom, judgment.
10 saad, true.
11 avoutrie, adultery.
13 wite ye not, do you not understand; enemyté, enmity.
15 gostly, spiritually.
22 conseyved, conceived.
26 heretikis, heretics.
27 lesyngis, falsehood.
28 metis, food.
29 heriyng, praising.
32 dom, judgment.
33 dampned, condemned.
34 lettith, hinders.
36 ponyschide, punished.
37 but, except.
42 schenden, shun.
47 kynde, nature.
48 here, their; discrecion, reason.
50 povert, poverty.
51 bihestis, promises; here, their.
52 doren, dare; leven, leave; stat, sinful condition.
53 mortherynge, murdering.
63 sclaundren hemselfe, slander themselves.
64 fend, fiend.
68 hem, himself.
70 owith, ought.
75 siche, such.
79 enemyté, enmity.
82 defoulen, defile; letten hem, obstruct them.
83 comyn wymmen, prostitutes.
84 kunnynge, knowing; hote, arrogant, proud.
85 coragious, lascivious.
88 muk, filthy behavior.
89 nyse, foolish.
95 skillis, reasons.
101 the thother, the other.
102 make, mate.
103 goode wille, intent.
108 anentis, with respect to.
110 devours, divorce.
111 departe atwyn, separate.
118 oweth, ought; suget, subject.
119 here, their.
123 tiffynge, adorning; her, herself.
124 peisible, peaceable.
125 bonere, good; riche, admirable.
127 clepynge, calling.
131 covenable abite, appropriate dress.
132 writhen here, braided hair; margery stones, pearls.
133 bihetynge, pledging.
138 skille, reason.
143 benynge, meek; underlont, underling.
145 suynge, drinking; techynge, informed.
146 ben underlont, be subservient.
153 wem, blemish.
159 greet, noble; but i-saye, but [only] visible (expressed).
161 drede, fear; obeischith, be obedient.
164 nyle, refrain.
166 lore, law.
174 jectouris, boasters; contré, strife
175 meyné, household members; brollis, brats.
177 moten, must.
178 amende, reprimand.
179 owen, ought.
181 thewis, mode of conduct.
185 hestis, behests.
186 Biheste, Promise.
187 holden, obliged.
192 geverne, govern; wittis, senses.
194 hestis, comandments.
203 knowen, know.
208 jeestis, stories.
210 craftis, skills.
211 losengerie, debauchery.
214 unnethis, scarcely.
218 sleeris, slayers.
226 homly in houshod, those belonging to the household.
230 maunmetis, pagan idols.
239 spised alle, spiced ale.
240 gestis, guests.
249 meyné, household.
250 cavyllacion, spurious arguments.
258 grane, trap.
259 stiren, provoke.
261 costy, costly.
262 anentis, concerning.
269 but yif, unless.
280 sclaundrith, slanders.
283 curleris, peddlers.
284 holouris, fornicators.
286 ypocritis, hypocrites, i.e., corrupt priests.
293 grucchen, lament.
294 axen, ask.
296 woodnesse, madness.
301 dom, authority (dominion, judgment).
306 domes, judgments.
310 mot, must.
311 askape unpeyned, escape unpunished; prevé, secretive.
312 agenstonde, stand against.
314 lese, lose.
315 wot, knows.
316 staat, condition.
318 bleckid, blackened.
320 panter, snare.
322 bedrede, bedridden.
323 herberwe hem, provide lodging for them.
WYCLIF (?), OF WEDDID MEN AND WIFIS AND OF HERE CHILDREN ALSO, NOTES
Abbreviations: Ar: Thomas Arnold; MS: Corpus Christi College Cambridge MS 296.
1-4 The Wycliffite author reviews an orthodox interpretation of holy wedlock as spiritual bond between Christ and the Church as well as a bond between a man and a woman. While the first form of marriage, described as gostly (line 2), is spiritual, i.e., between Christ and Holy Church, the second, used for actual marriage, is described in both physical and spiritual terms, bodily or gostly (line 3), leaving room for the possibility of marital chastity, in the manner of Joseph and Mary.
5 prophete Osie. See Hosea 1:19. One of the twelve prophets, Hosea was commanded by God to marry Gomer, a prostitute; his prophecy is often understood to be about unhappy marriage both on the literal and figural levels, i.e., Israel's turning away from God as the unfaithful wife turns away from her husband. According to David L. Jeffrey, "Medieval commentary focuses largely on the connection between Gomer's adultery and Israel's idolatry, seeing the main force of the book contained in Hosea's warnings against idols and false gods (e.g., 4:17), a theme associated with Hosea by John Gower in his Mirour de l'omme." See A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992), pp. 364-65.
8 first matrimoyne and best. There is no ambiguity in the author's priorities. He clearly puts spiritual marriage first despite the fact that he supports clerical marriage and speaks extensively about spousal relations and family life.
11 worschipen false goddis. It is not surprising that this is mentioned early in the treatise since false images are one of Wyclif's primary objections to orthodox practices.
12 Seynt Jame seith. See James 4:4. James is called the "lesser" to distinguish him from James the "greater," famous for pilgrimage to Compostela. The passage is from his epistle: "Adulterers, know you not that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of this world becometh an enemy of God" (4:4).
25 turned watir into wyn. The treatise reads the Wedding of Cana episode in John's Gospel (2:1-11) as an affirmation of the married state.
26 summe heretikis. The author seems to think of himself as orthodox on the subject of marriage.
gevenge. Ar reads gevinge.
31 as Seynt Poul seith. 1 Timothy 4:1.
31-34 One of the goods of marriage is to procreate enough to maintain the numbers of angels and saints and to prevent fornication.
34 lettith. Ar reads letiith.
36 ponyschide. Ar emends to poniscide.
41 false. Ar omits final -e.
43 in doynge and othere. Ar notes that the author does not understand this phrase in the Vulgate. The sense is "in name only."
48-49 to have the heritage holly. The treatise implies that children who were not loved were forced into religious life while the heritage went to the favored child, often the firstborn son. The author then explains why forcing children into religious life is a bad practice.
55-56 clene virgynité is moche betre. This is the same line of reasoning espoused by other orthodox theologians of the Middle Ages, Jerome, for instance.
58 Jon Evaungelist. Traditionally held to be the author of the Book of Revelation, this John is thought also to have been present at the Crucifixion.
Seynt Austyn and Jerom. Sts. Augustine and Jerome are represented together as promoting the same principle, though Augustine's The Good of Marriage is a treatise written to offset Jerome's overemphasis on virginity as a higher state of being. Nonetheless, the ambivalence on the subject of marriage even from Augustine affects later writers. G. G. Coulton remarks in Five Centuries of Religion, vol. 1 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1929), pp. 443-44: "The Augustinian theory of original sin necessarily implied a low view of the marriage state. Augustine forged this theory in the heat of controversy; and medieval orthodoxy frequently followed him into his least flattering conclusions. They held a sort of dualism which, in spite of occasional lip-homage to matrimony, never hesitated to exalt virginity as the nobler state. Here, as on many other points of the monastic ideal, St. Jerome's words are epoch-making and are passed from generation to generation of medieval writers as a classical commonplace: 'Marriage peoples the earth, but virginity peoples heaven' (Patrilogia Latina, vol. 23, col. 246)."
60-61 And therefore Poul gaf no comaundement. MS: And therefore gaf no comaundement. Poul is written in the margin.
69 Ar inserts a chapter break here.
75 Tobie. This refers to several passages in the Book of Tobias in which Tobias the younger receives a warning from the angel Raphael: "For they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and from their minds, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding; over them the devil hath power" (6:17).
77 yonge man and an olde bareyne widewe. The phrase resonates with Chaucer's Wife of Bath and her fifth husband, Jankyn. Since procreation is a good of marriage, a union in which the widow is old and barren constitutes a perversion of scriptural edicts despite Sara's mature and barren state. Sara, of course, was not a widow.
78 muk. The MED points to a range of meanings suggesting a negative opinion of material possession: "animal or human excrement," "dung," "manure," "dirt," "filth," "sewage," "putrescence" merge into "property," "possession," "wealth," "worldly gain." Herbert B. Workman sees this treatise on marriage as "a good specimen of Wyclif's teaching with its emphasis on ethics. . . . Nothing could be better than his protest against the marriage of a young man and an old widow 'for love of worldly muck'. . . ." See John Wyclif: A Study of the English Medieval Church, p. 45.
85-86 to his wif in Goddis lawe, and make here a gentil womman. This phrase is found at the bottom of the MS, where it is designated an addition by a mark placed in the margin.
91 myghtty men marien here children. The meaning of marien is to "marry off" or arrange the marriage of children, usually without their consent. The author seems to suggest that this is also a social practice among certain members of the English aristocracy. The passage is perhaps subversive of arranged marriages, where lords give their children in marriage without the children's consent or love, where they "feynen for drede" (line 92), that is, agree with their parents' wishes only out of fear.
97 to kepe his wif fro lecherie of othere men. The author's emphasis differs slightly from that of Paul and Augustine when he reminds his audience that a husband's duty is to protect the sexual integrity of his wife.
104-08 Following Augustine and others, the treatise advocates spiritual marriage, using the Virgin Mary and Joseph as the paradigm of marital affection.
110 fals devours. Medieval "divorce" differs from modern divorce in that the former means what contemporary family law defines as "separation," though the living arrangement would not allow either to remarry.
117 Ar inserts a chapter break here.
118-19 The relation between husband and wife, i.e., that the wif oweth to be suget to the housbonde, and he owith to reule his wif, is scriptural, reiterated by many New Testament writers, including Peter, Paul, and Timothy. See note to lines 145 ff.
119 ff. St. Peter's sayings derive from 1 Peter 3:1-7:
1) In like manner also, let wives be subject to their husbands: that, if any believe not the word, they may be won without the word, by the conversations of the wives.
2) Considering your chaste conversation with fear.
3) Whose adorning, let it not be the outward plaiting of the hair, or the wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel:
4) But the hidden man of the heart in the incorruptibility of a quiet and a meek spirit, which is rich in the sight of God.
5) For after this manner heretofore, the holy women also who trusted in God adorned themselves, being in subjection to their own husbands.
6) As Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughter you are, doing well and not fearing any disturbance.
7) Ye husbands, likewise dwelling with them according to knowledge, giving honour to the female as to the weaker vessel and as to the co-heirs of the grace of life, that your prayers be not hindered.
121 wonnen. MS: wymmen. Ar makes the emendation.
129 Seynte Poul spekith. 1 Timothy 2:8.
132 writhen here. Braided hair. In defining writhen, a form of writh, the OED cites this text which appears originally in 1 Timothy: "In like manner, women also in decent apparel, adorning themselves with modesty and sobriety, not with plaited hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly attire" (2:9). Note the similarity between this passage and the passage from 1 Peter cited above.
margery stones. Called "margarite," these "stones" (pearls) are listed in many lapidaries, which were popular in late medieval England. In the Peterborough Lapidary, the margarita is described as "chef of al stons þat ben wy3t & preciose, as Ised [Isidore] seyþ. And it haþe þe name margarita for it is founde in shellis which ben cokelis or in mosclys & in schellfyssh of þe see; þis bredyng is schellfyssh, & it is genderd of þe dewe of heuen, which dewe þe schell fissh receyueþ in certen tymes of þe 3er of þe which dew margarites comen." The Peterborough Lapidary is found in a collection called English Mediaeval Lapidaries, ed. Joan Evans and Mary S. Serjeanson, EETS o.s. 190 (London: Oxford University Press, 1933), p. 108.
136 pistel to Corynthis. St. Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians: "Let women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted them to speak but to be subject, as also the law saith" (14:34). The second passage (lines 145 ff.) reads as follows: "But if they would learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church" (14:35).
141 Writt. Ar reads writ.
146 ff. The marital hierarchy which equates men with Christ, women with Holy Church, is consistent with scriptural metaphors. See especially Ephesians 5:22-33.
152 and holy; and made it clene. MS: And holy and made it clene. The phrase is written at the bottom of the MS with an insertion mark in the margin.
157 For we ben membris of his body. The author is referring to the mystic body of Christ, i.e., those who believe and participate in Christianity.
164 and that thou be longe. MS: and that belonge.
166-67 See Ephesians 5:22 and explanatory note to lines 145 ff. Also Colossians 3:18.
172 withoute resonable cause. This phrase was left open to interpretation by writers of canon law. Husbands were expected to govern their wives reasonably.
Ar inserts a chapter break here, as directed by marks in the MS.
174 jectouris of contré. MED cites this particular line under gettour, from the verb getten. Contra is a scholastic formula for the assertion of opposing arguments.
175 brollis. A pejorative term for an unruly child.
179 togidre. Ar reads togedir.
183 Poul biddith. This refers to Ephesians 6:1-3: "Children, obey your parents, for it is just. Honour thy father and thy mother; which is the first commandment with a promise. That it may be well with thee and that thou mayest be long upon the earth."
184 God comaundith in the olde lawe. The reference returns to the authority of the Old Testament, which the author elaborates in his explanation of God's promise to Moses to liberate his people (see Exodus 3:3-10).
186 Lond of Biheste. Promised Land. The author recalls Exodus to illustrate his point on how a father should go about teaching his children. For a discussion of Lollard education see Anne Hudson, The Premature Reformation: Wycliffite Texts and Lollard History, chapter 4.
192 geverne. Ar reads governe.
225 Seynt Poul spekith. 1 Timothy 5:8.
236 Chapter break.
242 see. Ar reads se.
244 word of Seynt Poul. 1 Corinthians 7:29. Ar often includes a final -e on Paul's name.
252 and lecherie. Ar omits this phrase.
267 holden. Ar reads bolden.
271 Seynt Jon with the gildene mouth. The reference is to John Chrysostom whose rhetorical skills were legendary by Wyclif's time. Another reference to Chrysostom appears in Prohemy of a Mariage Betwixt an Olde Man and a Yonge Wife, and the Counsail, also included in this volume.
276 profrid. Ar reads proprid.
282 wifis geven here husbondis goodis. Almsgiving was a charitable activity, but wives, thought to be overly generous to the wrong people, were admonished and advised to use discretion.
283 othere curleris. There is a word crossed out before curleris in MS.
290 preve. Ar has prive.
306 Amen. This marks the original end of the treatise according to Ar.
307 ff. A late addition perhaps, this ending emphasizes the necessity for ordre. It continues in the same hand.
309 auctour. Ar reads auctor.
320 ydelnesse is the develis panter. A proverbial expression. See Whiting I16 ( a long entry). Compare the Prologue to Chaucer's The Second Nun's Tale, especially VIII(G)7-13.
Oure Lord God Almyghty spekith in His lawe of tweie matrimoneys or wedlokis.
The first is gostly matrimonye, bitwixe Crist and Holy Chirche, that is, Cristene soulis
ordeyned to blisse. The secunde matrimoyne is bodily or gostly, bitwene man and
womman, bi just consent, after Goddis lawe.
Of the first matrimoyne spekith God bi the prophete Osie to Holy Chirche; and to
ech persone of Holi Chirche God Himself seith, I schal spouse thee, or wedde thee to
me, in rightwisnesse, in dom, in mercy, and in feith; and I schal wedde thee withouten
ende. This is the first matrimoyne and best, as God and the soule of trewe men ben
betre than mennys bodies. And this beste matrimoyne is broken for a tyme bi brekynge
of saad feith, and defaute of rightwis lyvynge. And herefore God seith oft His prophetis,
that His peple dide fornicacioun and avoutrie, for thei worschipen false goddis; and
Seynt Jame seith that men that loven the world ben gostly avoutreris. For thus writith
he: yee avoutreris, wite ye not that frendischipe of this world is enemyté of God? And
thus alle men that loven more worldly worschipe or goodis of the world than God and
His lawe and trewe life, ben avoutreris gostly, yif thei weren Cristene bifore; and this is
worse avoutrie than brekynge of fleschly matrimonye.
Of the secunde matrimoyne, that is bodily, spekith God in the firste bok of Holy
Writt, whanne he maade matrimoyne bitwene Adam and Eve in paradis in staat of
innocence, bifore that thei synneden. And for that God Hymself made this ordre of
matrimoyne, and he not so made thes newe religions, it is betre and more to preise
than thes newe ordris. Also Jesus Crist wolde not be borne of the Virgine Marie, ne
conseyved, but in verrey matrimoyne, as the gospel of Luc, and Seynt Ambrose, and
othere seyntis witnessen. Also Jesus Crist was present in His owene persone with His
modir in bodily matrimoyne, to approve it, as the gospel of Jon techith, whanne He
turned watir into wyn. Also the Holy Gost warneth Cristen men, hou in the laste daies
summe heretikis schullen departe fro feith of Goddis lawe, gevenge entente to spiritis
of error, and to techynge of develis, spekynge lesyngis in ypocrisie, forbedynge
men and wymmen to be weddid, and techynge men to abstene hem fro metis, the
whiche God hath maad to be eten of trewe men, with thankyngis and heriyng of God.
Also this bodily matrimoyne is a sacrament and figure of the gostly wedlok bitwene
Christ and Holy Chirche, as Seynt Poul seith. Also, this wedlok is nedful to save
mankynde bi generacioun to the day of dom, and to restore and fulfille the noumbre of
aungelis, dampned for pride, and the noumbre of seyntis in hevene, and to save men
and wommen fro fornycacion. And therfore he that forbedith or lettith verrey
matrimonye is enemye of God and seyntis in hevene and alle mankynde. And herefore
man ponyschide fornycacion and avoutrie in the olde lawe bi stonynge to deth, and in
the lawe of grace bi dampnynge in helle, but yif men be verrey contrit therfore.
And herefore, sith fornicacioun is so perilous, and men and wymmen ben so frele,
God ordeynede prestis in the olde lawe to have wyves, and nevere forbede it in the
newe lawe, neither bi Crist ne bi His apostlis, but rathere aprovede it. But now, bi
ypocrisie of fendis and false men, manye bynden hem to presthod and chastité, and
forsaken wifis bi Goddis lawe, and schenden maydenes and wifis, and fallen foulest
of alle. For many ben prestis and religious, in doynge and othere, for to have lustful lif
and eisy, yong and strong of complexion, and faren wel of mete and drynk, and wolen
not traveile, neither in penaunce, ne studie of Goddis lawe, ne techynge, ne laboure
with here hondis; and herefore thei fallen into lecherie in dyverse degrees, and in
synne agenst kynde. For many gentilmennis sonys and doutres ben maad religious
agenst here wille, whanne thei ben childre withouten discrecion, for to have the heri-
tage holly to o child that is most lovyd. And when thei come to age, what for drede of
here frendis, and what for drede of povert in cas that thei gon out, and for ypocrise
and flatirynge, and faire bihestis of thes religious, and for drede of takynge of here
bodi to prison, thei doren not schewe here herte ne leven this stat, though thei knowen
hemself unable therto. And hereof cometh lecherie and sumtyme mortherynge of
Netheles, though matrimonye be good and gretly comendid of God, yit clene virgynité
is moche betre, - and wedlok also, as Seynt Poul seith opynli; for Jesus Crist, that
lyvede most perfitly, was evere clene virgine, and not weddid bodely, and so was His
modir evere virgine, and Jon Evaungelist. Seynt Austyn and Jerom specially witnessen
wel this in many bokis. Netheles virgynité is so heye and so noble that Crist comaundid
it not generaly, but saide, who may take, take he it. And therefore Poul gaf no
comaundement of virgynité, but gaf conseil to hem that weren able therto. And thus
prestis that kepen clene chastité in bodi and soule doun best; but many taken this
charge not discretly, and sclaundren hemselfe foule bifore God and His seyntis, for
newe bondis maade nedeles of synful men. And this is a gret disceit of the fend under
colour of perfeccion and chastité. For he stireth men to heighe poyntis of perfeccion,
when he knowith or supposith hem unable, not for here goode, but for to falle foulere
and depere in more synne, as Seynt Austyn techith. And thus the fend Sathanas
transfigureth or turneth hem falsly into an angel of light, to disceyve men bi colour of
See now how this wedlok owith to be kept in both sides. First this wedlok shulde be
maad with ful consent of bothe partis, principaly to the worschipe of God, to lyve
clenly in the ordre that He made, and bringe forth childre to fulfille the chosen noumbre
of seyntis in blisse, and not to have flescly lustis withoute reson and drede of God, as
mulis and hors and swyn that han no undirstondynge. For the angel Raphael warned
Tobie, that the fend hath maistrie upon siche men that ben weddid, to have thus lustis
of flesch as bestis withoute resoun and drede of God. Also this contract shulde not be
maade bitwixe a yonge man and an olde bareyne widewe, passid child-berynge, for
love of worldly muk, as men ful of coveitise usen sumtyme, - for than cometh soone
debat and avoutrie and enemyté, and wast of goodis, and sorowe and car ynowgh.
And it is a gret dispit to God to coloure thus here wickide coveitise, lecherie, and
avoutrie bi the holy ordre of matrimoyne. And many men synnen moche, for thei
defoulen many wymmen, and letten hem fro matrimoyne, and undon hem in this
world, and sumtyme ben cause of here dampnacion; for thei ben maad comyn wymmen,
whanne thei han lost here frendishipe, and kunnynge no craft to lyve by. Many hote
and coragious men wolen not take a pore gentil womman to his wif in Goddis lawe,
and make here a gentil womman, and save here owene soule, but lyven in the develis
servyce al here lif, or the more part; and defoulen many templis of God to gret peril of
here soule, and abiden to have a riche womman for muk, and thanne wasten here
goodis in harlotrie and nyse pride, in avoutrie on gaie strumpatis, and evere lyven in
wrathe, and chydynge, and in bondage of synne to the fendis of helle. Also summe
myghtty men marien here children where that here herte consentith not wilfully, but
feynen for drede. For comynly thei loken alle aftir richesse and worthinesse to the
world, and not after goodnesse of virtuous lif. And so God and His side is putte
bihynde, and the devel and the world and the flesch han now here maistrie.
For three skillis may a man knowe fleschly his rightful wif, the firste for to geten
children, to fulfille the noumbre of men and wymmen that schullen be savyd; the
secunde to kepe his wif fro lecherie of othere men; the thridde is to kepe himself fro
lecherie of othere wymmen. And no party may kepe him chaste fro the dedis of
wedlok withouten assent of the tother comynly, for the man hath power of the wifis
body, and the wif hath power of the mannys body, as Seynt Poul seith. And yif the
partie desire to be chast, suffre he withowten his owene luste the thother part in dedis
of matrimoyne, and he getith him thank of God, bothe for suffrynge of his make, and
for the wille that he hath to chastité; for God takith reward to the goode wille, and not
onely to the dede. Also men seyn yif bothe parties assenten wilfully to perfit chastité,
bothe of wille and dede, that it is betre than to use forth the dedis of matrimonye; and
yif thei assenten bothe parties at the begynnynge to lyve evere chast, withouten bodily
knowynge, that it is the best kept matrimoyne of all othere, as diden oure Lady and
Josep, whanne thei ben weddid. Loke that eche partie lyve wel anentis God and the
world, and stire eche othere to charité, rightwisnesse, and mekenesse and pacience,
and alle goodnesse. And be ech man war that he procure no fals devours, for money,
ne frendischipe, ne enemye; for Crist biddith no man departe atwyn hem that God
hath joyned; but only for avoutré that part that kepith him clene may be departid fro
the totheris bed, and for noon other cause, as Crist seith hymself. And yit thanne the
clene part myght lyve chast evere while the tother lyveth, or ellis be reconseled agen
to the part. Netheles the clene may dwelle forth with the tother lyveth that forfetis, bi
weie of charité. And men supposen that that weie is gret charité, yif there be evydence
that the tother part wolle do wel aftirward.
See now how the wif oweth to be suget to the housbonde, and he owith to reule his
wif, and how thei bothe owen to reule here children in Goddis lawe. First Seynt Petir
biddith that wifis be suget to here housbondis, insomoche that yif ony bileve not bi
word of prechynge, that thei ben wonnen withoute word of prechynge bi the holy
lyvynge of wymmen, whanne men biholden the chast lyvynge of wymmen. And thes
wymmen schulden not have withouten forth tiffynge of her, ne garlondis of gold, ne
over precious or curious clothinge, but thei schulden have a clene soule, peisible and
meke and bonere, the whiche is riche in the sightte of God. And sumtyme holy wymmen,
hopynge in God, honoureden hem in this manere, and weren suget to here owene
housbondis, as Sara, Abrahamys wif, obeischid to Abraham, clepynge hym lord;
and wymmen wel doynge ben gostly doughtris of Sarra. Alle this seith Seynt Petir.
Also Seynte Poul spekith thus of housbondis and wifis; I wole that men preie in eche
place, liftynge up clene hondis, that is, clene werkis, withouten wraththe and strif.
Also I wolle that wymmen ben in covenable abite, with schamefastnesse and sobirnesse
ournynge hem or makynge fair, not in writhen here, ne in gold, ne in margery stones
or perlis, ne in precious cloth, but that that bicometh wymmen bihetynge pité, bi
goode werkis. A womman oweth to lerne in silence, with alle obedience and subjeccioun.
But Poul seith, I suffre not a womman to teche, that is, openly in chirche, as Poul seith
in a pistel to Corynthis, and I suffre not a womman to have lordischipe in here
housbonde, but to be in silence or stillnesse. For, as Poul seith in many placis, the
housbonde is heed of the wif; and Poul tellith this skille, that Adam was first formed
and Eve aftirward, and Adam was not disceyved in feith, but the womman was
disceyved in feith, in trespasynge agenst Goddis comaundement. Alle this seith Poul
in dyverse placis of Holy Writt. Also Poul biddith that bishopis and prestis techen wifis
to love here housbondis, to be prudent and chaste and sobre, and to have care of the
hous, and benynge and underlont, or suget, to here housbondes, - that the word of
God be not blasphemyd. And that olde wymmen schullen be in holy abite, not puttynge
fals cryme or synne to othere, ne suynge to moche wyn, and to be wel techynge, so
that thei teche prudence. Also Poul techith thus, - that wymmen ben underlont, or
suget, to here husbondis, as to the Lord. For the husbonde is hed of the womman, as
Crist is heed of the Chirche, He is saveour of the body therof, that is, the grete
multitude of alle worthi to be savyd. But as Holy Chirche is suget to Crist, so be
wymmen sugetis to here housbondis in alle thingis. Husbondis, loveth youre wifis,
right as Crist lovede Holy Chirche, and toke Himself wilfully to peyne and deth for
Holy Chirche, to make it clene and holy; and made it clene bi waschynge of water in
the word of lif, to geve the Chirche glorious to Himself, not havynge wem ne revelynge
ne ony siche filthe, but that it be holy and withouten spot other wem. And housbondis
owen to love here wifis as here owene bodies, for he that loveth his wif loveth hymself.
For no man hatid evere his bodi, but norischith and fortherith it, as Crist doth Holy
Chirche. For we ben membris of his body, of his flesch, and of his bones. For this
thyng a man schal forsake, or leve, his fadir and his modir, and schal cleve to his wif,
and thei schullen be tweiyne in o flesch. This sacrament is greet, but i-saye, seith
Poul, in Crist and in Holy Chirche. But forsothe, ye husbondis, eche by hymself, love
he his wif as hymself, and drede the wif here housbonde. Ye children, obeischith to
youre eldris, fader and thi modir, in the Lord, for this thing is rightful. Worschipe
thi fadir and thi modir - that is the firste comaundement in biheste; that Crist
be wel to thee, and that thou be longe lyvynge upon erthe. And ye fadris, nyle ye stire
youre children to wraththe, but norische hem and brynge hem forth in disciplyne, or
lore, and chastisynge of God. Alle this seith Seynt Poul togidre. Also Poul comaundith
thus in another pistel: wymmen, be ye underlont to youre husbondis, as it bihoveth in
the Lord. Ye men, love youre wifis, and beth not bitter to hem. Children, obieschith to
youre eldris bi alle thingis, for this is plesaunt to the Lord. Ye fadris, stireth not youre
children to indignacion, lest thei of litel witt offenden, or trespasen, agenst God or
Here sturdy husbondis and cruel fightteris with here wifis, withoute resonable cause,
ben blamyd of God. But manye, whanne thei ben drounken, comen hom to here wifis,
and sumtyme fro here cursed strumpatis and jectouris of contré, and chiden and
fightten with ther wif and meyné, as thei weren Sathanas brollis; and suffren neither
reste, pees, ne charité be among hem. But dere schalle thei abie this bitternesse, for yif
thei wolen have mercy of God thei moten have mercy of othere men, though thei
hadden discervyd betynge, - amende hem in faire manere.
Of this may weddid men and wifis knowen, hou thei owen lyve togidre, and teche
here childre Goddis lawe. For at the bigynnynge a childe may esily be taught, and
goode thewis and maneris, accordynge with Goddis lawe, esily be prentid in his herte;
and thanne he may esily holden hem forthe, and encresse in goodnesse. And therfore
Poul biddith that the fadir norische his children in the lore and chastisynge of God; and
God comaundith in the olde lawe that the fadris schulden telle to herre children Goddis
hestis, and the woundris and myraclis that he dide in the lond of Egipt, and in the Rede
See, and in the watir of Jordan, and in the Lond of Biheste. And moche more ben fadir
and moder holden to teche here children the bileve of the Trinyté, and of Jesus Crist,
howe He is verray God withouten bigynnynge, and was maad man thorough moste
brennynge charité, to save mankynde bi stronge penaunce, hard torment, and bittir
deth. And so alle comen in poyntis of Cristene bileve, but thei ben most holden to
teche hem Goddis hestis, and the werkis of mercy, and poyntis of charité, and to
geverne wel here fyve wittis, and to drede God bifore alle othere thingis, and to love
Him most of alle thingis, for His endeles myght, endeles wisdom, endelesse goodnesse,
mercy, and charité. And yif thei trespasen agenst Goddis hestis, thei owen to blamen
hem therfore scharply, and chastise hem a thousandfold more than for dispit or
unkyndenesse don agenst here owene persone. And this techynge and chastisynge
schulden in fewe yeeris make goode Cristene men and wymmen, and namely
goode ensaumple of holy lif of olde men and wymmen, for that is best techynge to
And Cristene men, aboute many prestis, chargen godfadris and godmodris to techen
the children the Pater Noster and the Crede; and this is wel don; but it most nede to
teche hem the hestis of God, and geve hem good ensaumple bi here owene lif. For
though thei ben cristenyd and knowen the comyn poyntis of bileve, yit thei schullen
not be savyd withoute kepynge of Goddis hestis, but be ful hard and depe dampynd in
helle, more than hethene men. And it hadde betre be to hem to nevere have reseyved
Cristendom, but yif thei enden trewely in Goddis comaundementis, as Seynt Petir
But summe techen here children jeestis of bataillis and fals cronyclis not nedful to
here soulis. Summe techen novelries of songis, to stire men to jolité and harlotrie.
Summe setten hem to nedeles craftis, for pride and coveitise; and summe suffren hem
in ydelnesse and losengerie, to breden forth strumpatis and theves; and summe with
grett cost setten hem in lawe for wynnynge and worldly worschipe, and here to
costen hugely in many weies. But in alle this Goddis lawe is putt bihynde, and therof
spekith unnethis ony man a good word to magnifye God and that, and to save mennys
soulis. Sume techen here children to swere and stare and fightte, and schrewe alle
men aboute, and of this han gret joie in here herte. But certis thei ben Sathanas techeris,
and procuratouris to lede hem to helle bi here cursed ensaumple and techynge and
norischynge and meyntenynge in synne; and ben cruel sleeris of here owene children,
ye, more cruel than though thei hackeden here children as small as morselis to here
poot or mouth. For bi this cursid technyge and endynge therin, here children bodies
and soulis ben dampnyd withouten ende in helle. And though here bodies weren thus
hackid nevere so smale, bothe bodi and soule schal be in blis of hevene, so that thei
kepen trewely Goddis comaundementis. And of siche necligent fadris and modris,
that techen not here children Goddis lawe, and chastisen hem not whanne thei trespasen
agenst Goddis hestis, Seynt Poul spekith a dredeful word. He that hath not care of his
owene, and most of his homly in houshod, hath resceyved the feith, and he is worse
than a man out of Cristendom. And siche fadris and modris, that meyntenen wityngly
here children in synne, and techen hem schrewdnesse, ben werse than the cursed
fadris that killeden here children, and offre hem up to stockis, worschipynge false
maunmetis. For tho children in here youghthe weren ded and distried, and diden no
more synne; but thes children of cursed fadris and modris, that techen hem
pride, thefte, lecherie, wraththe, coveitise, and glotonye, and meyntenen hem therinne,
ben holden in long lif, and encresen in synne to more dampnacion of eche party. And
thus litel wonder though he take vengaunce on oure peple both old and yong, for alle
comynly dispisen God, and han joie and myrthe at his dispit and reprovynge. And God
mot ponische this synne for his rightful majesté.
But though husbondis han thus power over his wifis bodi, netheles thei owen to use
this doynge in mesure and reson, and sumwhat refreyne here foule lustis, and not take
superfluyté of hot wynes and spised alle and delicat metis to delite hem in this
occupacion, but thenk that thei ben gestis and pilgrimes in the world, and han not here
a dwellynge-place forevere. And therfore thei mosten geve hem to holynesse, withouten
whiche no man schal see God; and abstynen hem fro fleschly desiris that fightten
agenst the soule, as Petir and Poul techen bi auctorité of God Hymself; and thenke on
this word of Seynt Poul; - The tyme is schort; the tother part is that thei that han
wifes ben as havynge noon; that is to seie, that thei usen hem for and in drede of God
and mesure, not to fulfille here lustis, as bestis withoute undirstondynge; and that thei
have mynde of the dredful comynge of Crist to the laste dom, hou thei schullen thanne
answere for eche dede, eche word, and eche thought, - and eche evyl suffraunce of
here children and meyné, and princypaly of evyl ensaumple to here sugetis. And ne
cavyllacion ne procuratour schal be there, but here owene goode lif to save hem, or
cursed lif to dampne hem. And fleschly lustis, and glotonye, dronkenesse, and overe
moche likynge in fleschly dedis and lecherie, maken men most to forgete this dredful
dom. And therfore the gospel seith, that the thridde servaunt that hadde wedded a wif,
seide that he myghtte not come to the soper of Crist, and that servaunt is undirstonden,
he that geveth hym to overe moche likynge in fleischly lustis. And therfore biddith
Crist in the gospel, that we take hede that oure hertis ben not chargid with glotonye
and dronkenesse and bisyness of this lif, for the day of dom schal come as a snare, or
grane, upon alle tho that sitten upon the face of alle the erthe.
But ben wifis war that thei stiren not here husbondis to wraththe, ne envye agenst
here neigheboris, ne to falsnesse and overe moche bisynesse of the world, to fynde to
costy array. For the wif was made to be an helpere lich to the husbounde, eche to
helpe other in clennesse and holy lif, and trewe anentis God and man. But yif the
husbonde be stired to vengaunce and pride and envye, the wif oweth to stire hym to
penaunce and pacience, mekenesse and charité, and alle good manere of Cristene
lif. And whanne Goddis lawe biddith the husbonde and the wif love eche other, be
thei war that thei turnen not this love al to fleschly love, and not to love of the soule,
for thei ben holden moche more to love the soule than the body, for God loveth that
more than the bodi, and for the soule Crist diede. And certis love of the body is verrey
hate, but yif it be in helpe to save the soule, and kepe it in holy lif.
But yit thre grete defautis fallen many tymes in weddid men and wymmen. The firste
defaute is, as Seynt Jon with the gildene mouth seith, that thei maken sorowe yif here
children ben nakid or pore, but though here children ben nakid fro virtues in soule, thei
chargen nothing. And with moche traveile and cost thei geten grete richessis and heighe
statis and beneficis to here children, to here more dampnacion ofte tymes, but thei wolen
not gete here children goodis of grace and virtuous lif, ne suffre hem to resceyve siche
goodis, frely profrid of God, but letten it as moche as thei may; and seyn, yif here child
drawe hym to mekenesse and povert, and flee coveitise and pride, for drede of synne and
for to plese God, that he schal nevere be man, and nevere coste hem peny, and cursen
hem, yif he lyve wel and techen othere men Goddis lawe, to save mennis soulis. For bi this
doynge the child getith many enemyes to his eldris, and thei seyn that he sclaundrith alle
here noble kyn, that evere weren helde trewe men and worschipful.
The secunde defaute is that wifis geven here husbondis goodis to stronge beggeris and
riche, and othere curleris, to geten hem swete morselis, and sumtyme spende here husbondis
goodis aboute holouris and lecherous, the while here husbondis traveilen fare in ferre
contreies or grevous traveiles. And to holden holy and excuse this wickidnesse, wifis
many tymes don a litil almes opynly and fynden ypocritis to seyn massis and maken the
sely husbondis to meyntene siche ypocritis in here falsnesse, to robbe the pore peple and
to lette trewe men to teche Goddis lawe and to favoure false sclaunderis of here brethren.
And yif wifis favouren and meyntenen siche ypocritis and stiren here husbondis therto, for
preve lecherie bitwen hemself and for fals sykernesse that the ypocritis maken to hem,
though thei dwellen stille as swyn in synne, it is so mochel the worse.
The thridde defaute is this: yif Almyghtty God, of His rightwisnesse and mercy, take
here children out of this world bi fair deeth, thes riche wifis wepen, grucchen, and crien
agenst God, as God schulde not do agenst here wille; and axen God whi He takith rathere
here children fro hem than pore mennis, sith thei may betre fynde here children than may
pore men heren. See now the woodnesse of this grucchynge! It is gret mercy of God to
take a child out of this world; for yif it schal be saaf, it is delyverid out of woo into blisse,
lest malice turnyd the undirstondynge of the child to synne, and that is gret mercy of God,
and herefor alle men schulden be glade. Yif it schal be dampnyd, yit it is mercy of God to
take hym soone to deth, leste it lyve lengere, and do more synne, and therfore be in more
peyne. And sith thei grucchen thus agenst Goddis rightful dom, thei putten on God that He
is unrightful, - unwitty, - that He knowith not whanne is best tyme of the child, and out
of mercy and charité ponysche so sore the child and his eldris. But certis than thei ben
cursed Luciferis children, weiward Anticristis, and unkynde heretikis and blasphemes.
Therfore be thei glade, and thanke thei God for al His mercyes, and benefices, and rightful
Also loke that eche parti enforce hymself to kepe this ordre maad of God, and breke it
not for no temptacion ne likynge of flesch. And hereto helpen many resones. First, for
God that is auctour of this ordre loveth it to be kept in clennesse and present in every place,
and for His rightwisnesse mot ponyschen hym that brekith it. And no defoulynge therof
may askape unpeyned, for He knoweth alle thingis, be thei nevere so prevé; and nothing,
be it nevere so myghtty, may agenstonde His ponyschynge. Also thenk hou soone this
stenkynge flesch, that now deliteth in lecherie, schal turne alle to aschis, and poudre, and
erthe, and wermes mete; and for so schort likynge to lese everelastynge blisse and to gete
everelastynge peyne in helle, in body and soule, were a cursed chaunge; and no man wot
hou soone he schal die, and in what staat. Also goode angelis, keperis of men and wymmen,
schewen to God a grevous pleynt, whanne this holy ordre is thus broken, and Cristene
soulis, templis of the Holy Gost, ben thus wickidly bleckid with filthe of synne, and maad
liche to the fendis of helle. And for this skille, men and wymmen schulden be wel occupied
in goode werkis, and not ydel; for ydelnesse is the develis panter, to tempte men to synne;
and lyven in devout preieris and resonable and abstynence of mete, and namely of hote
drynkis and myghtty, and visite here pore neigheboris that ben bedrede, and clothe hem,
and herberwe hem, to gete remyssion of over moche likynge in fleschly dedis; and evere
crie to God with gret desire and good lif, that He graunte hem grace to kepe clenly this holy
ordre, and do verrey penaunce for here olde synnes, to ende in perfit charité, and so evere
have here verrey spouse, Jesus Crist, in blisse of hevene withouten enden. Amen. Explicit.
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